Estonian Sign Language


A language of Estonia

Alternate Names
EVK, Eesti viipekeel, Viipekeel

1,500 (Paales 2011). 4,500 users out of 1,600 deaf and 20,000 hearing impaired. 2,000 persons need regular help from interpreters (1998 U. Sutrop). 1,500 signers (2014 Estonian Deaf Association). 6,300 (2014 IMB).


Scattered, mostly in Pärnu county and Tallinn.

Language Status

5 (Developing). Recognized language (2011, No. RT1, Language Act, Article 3(2)).


Some local dialects. The dialect in Pärnu is most archaic. Influences from Finnish [fse] and Russian Sign Languages [rsl].


One-handed fingerspelling.

Language Use

First deaf school 1866. Deaf associations. Used by all. Also use Russian Sign Language [rsl].

Language Development

TV. Videos. Dictionary. Grammar. Agency: Estonian Association of the Deaf.


Unwritten documents [Zxxx].

Other Comments

Fingerspelling system unlike other European countries. Sign language interpretation service started 1996. 25 working sign language interpreters (2019 EUD). Estonian Sign Language was first recognized in 2007. Systematic teaching and research since 1990 at Tartu University. (2014 Estonian Association of the Deaf). Sign language instruction for parents of deaf children in Tallinn.

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